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Letters and Life: On Being a Writer, On Being a Christian Hardcover


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Letters and Life: On Being a Writer, On Being a Christian + Before We Get Started: A Practical Memoir of the Writer's Life + Jewel (Oprah's Book Club)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Crossway; 1 edition (June 30, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1433537834
  • ISBN-13: 978-1433537837
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #268,471 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Letters and Life is nothing less than an invaluable gift to the body of Christ. Let no serious believer who aspires to serious writing neglect to read it and to be encouraged, instructed, and blessed by it. A wise, wonderful, and desperately needed primer on what it means to be a genuine Christian writer and artist.”
Eric Metaxas, New York Times best-selling author, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

“Like all great storytellers, Bret Lott is a bridge builder: his characters cross into our lives and help us know ourselves more truly. In this lively collection of essays, Lott is determined to bridge another gap—the sometimes uneasy tension between the world of literary fiction and the broader community of faith. Along the way, he demonstrates that reading literature, far from being an elitist indulgence, is at once deeply pleasurable and a transformative spiritual experience.”
Gregory Wolfe, editor, Image; author, Beauty Will Save the World

“Bret Lott has dared to write an impossible book—a serious and candid set of meditations on what it means to be a Christian writer living in a secular society that neither respects nor even understands his faith. I can hardly imagine a more difficult topic or a more necessary one. Letters and Life has the courage to explore a question at the heart of contemporary culture: How do we reconcile the spirit and the imagination?”
Dana Gioia, poet; former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts

“Bret Lott is one of America’s finest writers and editors; this book reveals him to be one of our greatest mentors to writers of faith, as well. Letters and Life brims with wisdom and advice to all who bear the call toward an authentic journey of a writer. It is a gift for all readers who desire to know more about the creative process and to infuse their creativity into their lives.”
Makoto Fujimura, Founder, International Arts Movement and Fujimura Institute; artist; author

About the Author

Bret Lott (MFA, University of Massachusetts) is the New York Times best-selling author of more than a dozen books including Jewel, an Oprah Book Club selection. From 1986 to 2004 he was writer-in-residence and professor of English at the College of Charleston, leaving to take the position of editor and director of the journal The Southern Review at Louisiana State University. In 2007, he returned to the College of Charleston, where he currently teaches. He serves as nonfiction editor of Crazyhorse, and is a member of the National Council on the Arts.


More About the Author

Bret Lott is the New York Times bestselling author of thirteen books, most recently the novel Dead Low Tide(Random House 2012); other books include the story collection The Difference Between Women and Men, the nonfiction book Before We Get Started: A Practical Memoir of the Writer's Life, and the bestselling novels Jewel, an Oprah Book Club pick, and A Song I Knew by Heart. His work has appeared in, among other places, The Yale Review, The New York Times, The Georgia Review and in dozens of anthologies. Born in Los Angeles, he received his BA in English from Cal State Long Beach in 1981, and his MFA in fiction from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in 1984, where he studied under James Baldwin. From 1986 to 2004 he was writer-in-residence and professor of English at The College of Charleston, leaving to take the position of editor and director of the journal The Southern Review at Louisiana State University. Three years later, in the fall of 2007, he returned to The College of Charleston and the job he most loves: teaching. His has served as Fulbright Senior American Scholar and writer-in-residence to Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv, Israel; has spoken on Flannery O'Connor at The White House; and is a member of the National Council on the Arts. He and his wife, Melanie, and live in Hanahan, South Carolina.

Customer Reviews

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In this nonfiction book, Lott has many insights for writers.
W. Terry Whalin
I am referring here to Flannery O'Connor's Mystery and Manners, Francis Schaeffer's Art and the Bible, and the works of G. K. Chesterton.
Ben House
Lott doesn't attempt a serious linear structure to the book, but there's one big idea I'll take away.
David Gunner Gundersen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Nancy Famolari VINE VOICE on June 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Brett Lott makes no bones about being a Christian writer. He begins the first essay by reciting the Apostles' Creed. However, the book is more than a presentation of his faith, it is also a treasure trove of thoughts on what it means to be a writer.

The first five essays cover topics ranging from a discussion of literary fiction to thoughts on precision in writing to an essay on Flannery O'Connor. My favorite was the discussion of precision in writing. As Lott points out, it's a difficult concept to articulate, but I found by the end I had a better grasp of what it means to write with precision. I particularly enjoyed his example of precise writing in the Bible, Judges 3:12-26, in which Ehud kills Eglon, king of Moab. I had read the passage before but completely missed the reference to Eglon's bowels letting loose after Ehud stuck his sword through his belly. The smell made the guards think that Eglon was relieving himself and therefore didn't disturb him and Ehud got away. It's a small detail, but it makes the picture of the assassination very real.

The essay on Flannery O'Connor is also a favorite. Using her life and words as an illustration, Lott discusses the importance of the story more than the prestige of the author. Too often, writers crave fame and their desire to tell a story becomes secondary.

The final section is about Lott's life. He begins to tell the story after the death of his father. Losing a father is never easy. It makes you reflect on life: what was and will never be again.

I recommend this book for Christian writers, but it also provides thought provoking concepts for anyone who hopes to write meaningful fiction.

I reviewed this book for Crossway.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By C. Hennessey on July 25, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
I enjoy writing. The problem is that I don't think that I'm a good writer. But I still write. I enjoyed research papers in seminary, and I've enjoyed writing on this blog for the past few years, but I've never done any more writing than outside of this. While reading through Letters & Life, I found myself desiring to write more and express myself through words on paper more often. But writing seems so permanent. If I think something or say something, it can go away in an instant. However, once it's down on paper (or a screeen) it's there forever. Obviously, this isn't always true but go deep with me for a minute. I think my fear of writing and why I don't write more is because I am not confident enough in what I'm writing. I don't want to look dumb or say something that's already been said 1,000 times.

But here is what Letters & Life taught me. I need to write. Not because I'm any good at writing. But because of the message I know about Jesus, and how God has equipped me to share it through words on paper and through the stories of my life. My stories matter, and so do yours. We should all be sharing our stories and lives with others. The author, Bret Lott, says something early on in the book that was really profound to me. He said, "What I continue to learn through my life as a writer-through all those rejections and successes, past, present, and yet to come-is that the pain I want established is not to succeed in the world's terms but in God's terms. The loving God who loves us on his term, and his only" (32).

So while this isn't a typical review of a book that talks about why the book was great or why it was bad, this review simply is an expression of the motivation I found from this book and I want to encourage you to read it and feel the same. Our loving God can use us, and while the world will reject my writing at times, God is using it in His terms. Check out Letters and Life. I promise it will make you want to write more.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mathew Sims on July 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Bret Lott writes a sprawling travel guide for the writing life. He shares anecdotes, struggles, and lessons learned; most of all, he writes well. Reading Letters & Life reminds me of reading a travel memoir--something akin to Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods for writers.

Lott neatly divides the book into five chapters on letters and one (long) chapter on life. The last section while long is broken up into shorter sections/headings. He weaves the story of his father's death through this section. It's very personal and it was my favorite chapters of the book. I enjoyed part one but sometimes the details dragged (although the ending chapter on Flannery was superb). The second section was paced quicker and was intensely personal. It resonated with me more deeply.

I love that Brett doesn't write in the Christian market. He writes from a Christian worldview and strives to write with excellence. We need more Bret Lott's. We need more writers working to do art well instead of trying to fit into a prefabricated Christian market. If you're an aspiring writing, Lott will teach and delight; he will show and tell. Read and learn.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received Letters and Life: On Being a Writer, On Being a Christian free from Crossway. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Originally reviewed at Grace for Sinners
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By V. L. Wilson on August 9, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
My grandson bought a used copy of "Jewel" at a yard sale for me last month. I seldom read fiction but since it was an Oprah pick, I began reading it and was riveted from the beginning to the end. Naturally I went to Amazon for more publications by Bret Lott and selected this one. I was not disappointed except for the fact I read it on Kindle and did not have a paperback copy to share with others who wish they could write well and tell a true story. I wish I could write my own story but am not gifted so I love reading memoirs by others. This book is outstanding for the most part.

I refuse to tell you the surprise ending I was not prepared for at all! Suffice it to say, I enjoyed this book and recommend it as an excellent memoir by a gifted writer of literary fiction who bares his soul. An amazing story.
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